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California may seem crowded, but is it really?


Californians are known for grumbling about traffic, housing costs, and overall quality of life. But in recent years, celebrities, businesses, and regular people have gone from complaining about the state to leaving it entirely.

So is California’s population shrinking? It’s complicated.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Golden State has a population of 39.5 million, easily the largest headcount in the U.S.

During the 1900s, the state’s population was about 2 million and soon grew to 10 million by 1950, thanks partly to a 61% population growth rate recorded during the 1920s, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reports. That growth was fueled by Americans moving west and international immigration to a state that promised economic prosperity and scenic beauty.

In the past decade, California has experienced its slowest population rate increase, with only a 6% growth rate from 2010 to 2020.

“Since 2010, about 7.5 million people moved from California to other states, while only 5.8 million people moved to California from other parts of the country. According to Department of Finance estimates, the state has lost residents to other states every year since 2001,” Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at PPIC, wrote in an analysis.

California lost about 300,000 residents from Jan. 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, mainly due to residents moving, an increase in deaths, and international migration, PPIC reported.

Some Californians moved to other states like Florida, Texas, or Washington during the pandemic, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Population growth sluggishness relative to other states also resulted in California losing a seat in the U.S. Congress in 2020, the first time that’s happened in the state’s history.

The state’s high cost of living (housing in particular) has been a major cause of the so-called California exodus.

Renting an apartment is expensive in many parts of the state. The average rent price for apartments in Los Angeles is between $2,262 and $5,095 in 2022, according to

Despite the low growth rate numbers and high cost of living, experts predict that the state’s population could reach 45 million by 2050.

So, how is the state’s population increasing if people are leaving?

The people moving to California tend to be wealthier than those who leave and thus can live here longer, according to PPIC.

About 437,275 people from other states and countries moved to California in 2020, according to the Orange County Register.

Even though the Golden State has lost some residents, others have stepped in to take their place.


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